Johnny Ramone

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Johnny Ramone
Johnny Ramone 1983 c.jpg
Johnny Ramone playing at The Eagle Hippadrome in 1983
Background information
Birth nameJohn William Cummings
Also known asJohnny Ramone
Born(1948-10-08)October 8, 1948
Forest Hills, New York, U.S.
DiedSeptember 15, 2004(2004-09-15) (aged 55)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Genres Punk rock
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter, guitarist, actor
Years active1965–1996
Labels Sire, Radioactive, Chrysalis
Associated acts Ramones

John William Cummings (October 8, 1948 – September 15, 2004), known professionally as Johnny Ramone, was an American guitarist and songwriter, best known for being the guitarist for the punk rock band the Ramones. He was a founding member of the band, and remained a member throughout their entire career. He died from prostate cancer on September 15, 2004.

Punk rock is a rock music genre that developed in the mid-1970s in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. Rooted in 1960s garage rock and other forms of what is now known as "proto-punk" music, punk rock bands rejected perceived excesses of mainstream 1970s rock. They typically produced short, fast-paced songs with hard-edged melodies and singing styles, stripped-down instrumentation, and often political, anti-establishment lyrics. Punk embraces a DIY ethic; many bands self-produce recordings and distribute them through independent record labels and other informal channels.

Ramones American punk rock band

The Ramones were an American punk rock band that formed in the New York City neighborhood of Forest Hills, Queens, in 1974. They are sometimes cited as the first true punk rock group. Despite achieving only limited commercial success initially, the band was highly influential in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Prostate cancer male reproductive cancer

Prostate cancer is the development of cancer in the prostate, a gland in the male reproductive system. Most prostate cancers are slow growing; however, some grow relatively quickly. The cancer cells may spread from the prostate to other areas of the body, particularly the bones and lymph nodes. It may initially cause no symptoms. In later stages, it can lead to difficulty urinating, blood in the urine or pain in the pelvis, back, or when urinating. A disease known as benign prostatic hyperplasia may produce similar symptoms. Other late symptoms may include feeling tired due to low levels of red blood cells.


In 2009, he appeared on Time 's list of "The 10 Greatest Electric-Guitar Players". [1] In 2012, he was ranked #8 on Spin 's list of the "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time". [2] He is also ranked #28 on the "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" list in Rolling Stone . [3]

Time is an American weekly news magazine and news website published in New York City. It was founded in 1923 and originally run by Henry Luce. A European edition is published in London and also covers the Middle East, Africa, and, since 2003, Latin America. An Asian edition is based in Hong Kong. The South Pacific edition, which covers Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands, is based in Sydney. In December 2008, Time discontinued publishing a Canadian advertiser edition.

<i>Spin</i> (magazine) American music magazine

Spin is an American music magazine founded in 1985 by publisher Bob Guccione, Jr. The magazine stopped running in print in 2012 and currently runs as a webzine, owned by the Billboard-Hollywood Reporter Media Group division of Valence Media.

<i>Rolling Stone</i> American magazine focusing on popular culture, based in New York City

Rolling Stone is an American monthly magazine that focuses on popular culture. It was founded in San Francisco, California in 1967 by Jann Wenner, who is still the magazine's publisher, and the music critic Ralph J. Gleason. It was first known for its musical coverage and for political reporting by Hunter S. Thompson. In the 1990s, the magazine shifted focus to a younger readership interested in youth-oriented television shows, film actors, and popular music. In recent years, it has resumed its traditional mix of content.

Early life and career

John William Cummings was born in Queens on October 8, 1948, the only child of a construction worker of Irish descent. [4] He was raised in the Forest Hills, Queens neighborhood of New York City, where he grew up absorbing rock music. [5] As a teenager, Johnny played in a band called the Tangerine Puppets alongside future Ramones drummer Tamás Erdélyi (better known as Tommy Ramone). [6] As a teenager, he was known as a "greaser", though he was later described as a tie-dye-wearing Stooges fan. He was a lifelong New York Yankees fan. He also worked as a plumber with his father before the Ramones became successful, at one point attended military school, [7] and briefly attended college in Florida.

Queens Borough in New York City and county in New York, United States

Queens is the easternmost of the five boroughs of New York City. It is the largest borough geographically and is adjacent to the borough of Brooklyn at the southwestern end of Long Island. To its east is Nassau County. Queens also shares water borders with the boroughs of Manhattan and the Bronx. Coterminous with Queens County since 1899, the borough of Queens is the second largest in population, with an estimated 2,358,582 residents in 2017, approximately 48% of them foreign-born. Queens County also is the second most populous county in the U.S. state of New York, behind Brooklyn, which is coterminous with Kings County.

Forest Hills, Queens Neighborhood of Queens in New York City

Forest Hills is a mostly residential neighborhood in the central portion of the borough of Queens in New York City. The north, east, and south boundaries are the Long Island Expressway, Grand Central Parkway, and Union Turnpike, respectively. Google Maps shows the western boundary running roughly along 102nd Street, 67th Avenue, and the Long Island Rail Road's former Rockaway Beach Branch; while the Encyclopedia of New York City defines the western boundary as Junction Boulevard and the former Rockaway Beach Branch. The area was originally referred to as "Whitepot".

Tommy Ramone Hungarian American record producer and musician

Thomas Erdelyi, known professionally as Tommy Ramone, was a Hungarian American record producer, musician, and songwriter. He was the drummer for the influential punk rock band the Ramones for the first four years of the band's existence and was the last surviving original member of the Ramones.

He met future bandmate Douglas Colvin, later to become Dee Dee Ramone, in the early 1970s while delivering dry cleaning. They would eat lunch together and discuss their mutual love of bands like the Stooges and MC5. Together they went to Manny's Music in New York City in January 1974, where Johnny bought a used blue Mosrite Ventures II guitar for just over $54. On the same trip, Dee Dee bought a Danelectro bass. They collaborated with future bandmate Jeffrey Hyman, later to become Joey Ramone, to form the Ramones with Richie Stern on bass. Stern left after a few rehearsals. Tommy joined the Ramones in the summer of that year after public auditions failed to produce a satisfactory drummer.

Dee Dee Ramone German-American songwriter and musician

Douglas Glenn Colvin, known professionally as Dee Dee Ramone, was an American musician, singer and songwriter best known as founding member, songwriter, bassist and occasional lead vocalist for the punk rock band the Ramones.

MC5 band

MC5 was an American rock band from Lincoln Park, Michigan, formed in 1964. The original band line-up consisted of vocalist Rob Tyner, guitarists Wayne Kramer and Fred "Sonic" Smith, bassist Michael Davis, and drummer Dennis Thompson. "Crystallizing the counterculture movement at its most volatile and threatening", according to AllMusic critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine, the MC5's leftist political ties and anti-establishment lyrics and music positioned them as emerging innovators of the punk movement in the United States. Their loud, energetic style of back-to-basics rock and roll included elements of garage rock, hard rock, blues rock, and psychedelic rock.

Mosrite American guitar brand

Mosrite is an American guitar manufacturing company, based in Bakersfield, California, from the late 1950s to the early 1990s. Founded by Semie Moseley, Mosrite guitars were played by many rock and roll and country artists.

Johnny was responsible for initiating one of the major sources of animosity within the band when he began dating and later married Linda Daniele, who had previously dated Joey. Allegedly, this incident prompted Joey to write songs like "The KKK Took My Baby Away" and "She Belongs To Me", although it has been speculated that the song was actually written before the founding of the Ramones in 1974. Though the band remained together for years after this incident, relations between Johnny and Joey remained strained. [8] Years later, when Joey was in the hospital dying of cancer, Johnny refused to telephone him. He later discussed this incident in the film End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones , saying an attempt at such a reunion would have been futile. He did add that he was depressed for a week after Joey's death. When pressed, he acknowledged that this was because of the bond forged by the band. In their road manager Monte Melnick's book about his time with the Ramones, Johnny is quoted as having said, "I'm not doing anything without him. I felt that was it. He was my partner. Me and him. I miss that."

"The KKK Took My Baby Away" is a song written by Joey Ramone. It appears on the Ramones' 1981 album Pleasant Dreams.

<i>End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones</i> 2003 film

End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones is a 2003 documentary film about highly influential New York punk rock band the Ramones. The film, produced and directed by Jim Fields and Michael Gramaglia, documents the band's history from their formation in the early 1970s and 22 subsequent years of touring, to their 1996 breakup and the deaths of two of the four original members. The title is taken from the Ramones' 1980 album, End of the Century. Johnny Ramone died shortly after its release.

Alongside his music career, Johnny appeared in nearly a dozen films (including Rock 'n' Roll High School ) and documentaries. He also made television appearances in such shows as The Simpsons (1F01 "Rosebud", 1993) and Space Ghost Coast to Coast (Episode 5 "Bobcat"). [9]

<i>Rock n Roll High School</i> 1979 musical comedy directed by Allan Arkush

Rock 'n' Roll High School is a 1979 American musical comedy film directed by Allan Arkush, produced by Michael Finnell, and starring P. J. Soles, Vince Van Patten, Clint Howard, and Dey Young. The film featured the punk rock group The Ramones.

<i>The Simpsons</i> American animated sitcom created by Matt Groening

The Simpsons is an American animated sitcom created by Matt Groening for the Fox Broadcasting Company. The series is a satirical depiction of working-class life, epitomized by the Simpson family, which consists of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie. The show is set in the fictional town of Springfield and parodies American culture and society, television, and the human condition.

Rosebud (<i>The Simpsons</i>) 4th episode of the fifth season of The Simpsons

"Rosebud" is the fourth episode of The Simpsons' fifth season. It first aired on the Fox network in the United States on October 21, 1993. The episode begins by showing how on the eve of his birthday, Mr. Burns starts to miss his childhood teddy bear Bobo. The bear ends up in the hands of Maggie Simpson and Burns does everything in his power to get Bobo returned to him.

Guitar technique

Being almost exclusively a rhythm guitarist, Johnny was notable for solely using downstrokes throughout the entirety of his career, as well as his usage of full, six-string barre chords. [10] [11] [12] This unique technique, combined with his characteristic high gain tone from his guitar amplifier, produced a guitar sound that was far more aggressive and rhythmic than that of his contemporaries, heavily influencing early punk rock groups. [13]

For the most part, he disliked lengthy guitar solos, and consequently never attempted to gain much skill in this area of playing. Despite this, Johnny did play simple lead guitar parts on a small number of Ramones recordings, such as "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue" and "California Sun". A brief guitar solo can also be found on live versions of "I Can't Make It on Time", in which Johnny plays a descending E minor pentatonic scale, ending it off with a whole step bend. However, the infrequent guitar solos on the group's studio albums were usually overdubbed by Tommy Ramone, Ed Stasium, Daniel Rey, Walter Lure and other uncredited guests. [14] Most of these small leads were only added in an attempt to give certain songs a more commercial appeal; they were not common on the band's albums.

I guess that before me, people played downstrokes for brief periods in a song, rather than the whole song through. It was just a timing mechanism for me.

- Johnny Ramone [11]

For example, Dictators bassist Andy Shernoff states that Jimmy Page's rapid downstroke guitar riff in "Communication Breakdown", an influential song that contained elements of protopunk, [15] [16] was an inspiration for Johnny Ramone's downstroke guitar style. [17] Ramone, who has described Page as "probably the greatest guitarist who ever lived", [18] stated in the documentary Ramones: The True Story that he improved his downstroke style by playing the song over and over again for the bulk of his early career. [19] Recording engineer Ed Stasium once stated "Johnny makes it sound simple, but I can't do it, and I bet Eddie Van Halen can't. Not for an hour!". [10] This technique was also very influential on new wave of British heavy metal bands such as Iron Maiden. His style has also been an influence on many alternative rock bands, as well as on thrash metal performers such as James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett of Metallica, Dave Mustaine of Megadeth and Scott Ian of Anthrax. [20] Guitar virtuoso Paul Gilbert has cited Johnny Ramone as one of his influences.

Musical equipment

Johnny Ramone was known for favoring Mosrite, an American guitar brand known for their association with 1960s pop and rock music.

The Mosrites were light, and they were perfect for playing nonstop barre chords.

- Johnny Ramone [11]

Johnny first bought a guitar (brand unknown) in 1965 but didn't really learn how to play it, "just fiddled around for about a year." [21]


I bought [Mosrites] because it was the cheapest guitar in the store. Now I've gotten used to it and I like it. I also didn't wanna get a guitar that everybody else was using – I wanted something that could be identified with me.

- Johnny Ramone [21]


  • Mosrite – White Ventures II – Bought in 1977 with the intention of making it a back up to the blue Mosrite. When the Blue Mosrite (along with all of his other guitars save for the Rickenbacker 450) were stolen from his storage unit, this Ventures II became his main guitar until the band disbanded in 1996 – later sold to producer Daniel Rey. [22]
  • Rickenbacker1966 Fireglo 450 – Often thought to have been traded for another Mosrite, was actually kept at home. All of Johnny's guitars were stolen in 1977 save for this one and the White Mosrite Ventures II which was purchased shortly before the 450. [23]
  • Rickenbacker - Late 1950's Gold 450 – Used on the Don Kirshner's Rock Concert, later stolen. The Ramones played a gig, booked by Stephen King, in Portland Maine on July 12, 1978, opening for Cheap Trick. [24] The guitar was stolen that night. Robin Zander of Cheap Trick began playing an identical model shortly thereafter, and Johnny Ramone always claimed that Zander stole it. After Johnny's death, Zander publicly admitted that it was Johnny's guitar, but maintains that he purchased it at a pawn shop in Tulsa Oklahoma for a few hundred dollars, and was unaware it was Johnny's until around 1991. [25]
  • Fender – Black 1970s Stratocaster. Whereabouts unknown.
  • Yamaha- 1970s acoustic, used sparingly in the studio. Can be seen in the 1979 film Rock 'n' Roll High School during the performance of "I Want You Around".
I got [the Rickenbacker 450] because I wanted something that sounded British Invasion. Even with a Strat pickup in the bridge it just doesn't sound thick enough so I just use it around the house for demos and practice (The guitar was later auctioned off by his estate in 2015).

- Johnny Ramone [26]


  • Mosrite – Red 1965 Ventures I/V1 – owned by T.bags of Deadones USA. Used for TV appearances throughout the 1980s and sold to a former tour driver in 1990. Reportedly sold at auction in January 2015 for $71,875 [27]
  • Mosrite – Blue Ventures II – Mint condition never played on stage saved as a backup guitar, traded to Johnny in 1988. Eventually autographed and sold to a band roadie who later consigned it for sale at Northern Guitars in Queens, NY. Subsequently, it was purchased by a fan of the band in 2000. Currently, resides in New Jersey.
  • Mosrite – Brown Ventures II – Johnny's main second guitar from 1984 to 1989, later painted gold sparkle.
  • Mosrite – White 1 pickup – Made by a friend of the band and used as backup during live shows.
  • Mosrite – Sunburst 1 pickup – Used in the video for "Time Has Come Today."
  • Mosrite – White Ventures (2) – custom-made for Johnny by Mosrite founder/owner Semie Moseley in the late 1980s.
  • Fender – Red 1970s Stratocaster – used in a live dub by Johnny in 1985
  • Fender – Blue Sparkle Mustang - Destroyed when the band's equipment van left a show, and the doors were accidentally left open.
  • Hamer – White custom endorsement guitar – Johnny owned two. One was traded in the 1980s for a brown Mosrite which became a backup guitar.
  • Boss – TU-12 Chromatic Tuner
  • Marshall – JMP Super Lead 100W Head
  • Marshall – JCM 800 100W Lead Series Head [28]

Johnny used light gauge Fender Electric strings through most of the 1970s, later changing to Dean Markley.

Guitar rig

A gear diagram of Johnny Ramone's 1990 rig contains only four elements: a guitar, a tuner, an A/B box (for the tuner), and a stack of Marshall amplifiers. [29]


Johnny was known within the punk rock community as one of its few conservatives, and was a staunch supporter of the Republican Party. He made his political affiliation known to the world in 2002 when the Ramones were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. After thanking all who made the honor possible—clad in his trademark T-shirt, ripped blue jeans and leather jacket—he said "God bless President Bush, and God bless America". [30] He said in an interview, when questioned on his conservatism, "I think Ronald Reagan was the best President of my lifetime." This was evident when the band released the UK single "Bonzo Goes to Bitburg" in 1985; Johnny pressed for a name change, finding the title insulting to Reagan, and the song was retitled on American releases as "My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down (Bonzo Goes to Bitburg)" after a line from the song's chorus. In this same interview he claimed that "Punk is right wing". [31]

Johnny is quoted by The Observer as saying: "People drift towards liberalism at a young age, and I always hope they change when they see how the world really is." [32]

Personal life

As noted in tour manager Monte Melnick's book On the Road with The Ramones, Johnny's father was a strict disciplinarian. Johnny is quoted as saying: "My father would get on these tangents about how he never missed a day's work. I broke my big toe the day I had to go pitch a Little League game and he's going, 'What are you – a baby? What did I do, raise a baby? You go play.' And even though my toe was broken I had to go pitch the game anyway. It was terrible. It would always be like that. I'm glad he raised me like that but it would always be, 'What are you – sick? You're not sick. What did I raise – a baby? I never missed a day's work in my life.' Then I went to military school, and in military school, you couldn't call in sick." [7]

Further, Johnny's early adulthood was marked by bouts of delinquency which he attested were inexplicable at the time. "I didn't become a delinquent until I got out of high school. I had a two-year run. I'd go out and hit kids and take their money and rob everybody's pocketbooks. Just being bad every minute of the day. It was terrible. I don't know what my problem was. Things that were funny to me at the time were horrible. If I found a television set sitting in the garbage, I'd take it up to the rooftop, watch for someone walking down the block and drop it in front of them on the sidewalk. It was funny watching them see a TV set come crashing down 30 feet in front of them. To me it was hysterical, but it was also a mean and terrible thing to do. I also found a way of stopping the elevator. I could open up the door and stop the elevator. I would wait for an old lady to get in and stop the elevator. They'd be yelling and pushing the alarm, and I would keep them there. At about 20 years old, I stopped drinking and doing drugs, got a job and tried to be normal." [33]

In 1983, Johnny Ramone was severely injured in a fight with Seth Macklin of the band Sub Zero Construction. [34] [35] He was saved by emergency brain surgery. This incident was said to have inspired the next album's title, Too Tough to Die . He never spoke of the incident in the following years.

Johnny Ramone married his wife Linda in 1994 at the office of the city clerk in New York City. She had originally dated Joey Ramone but left him for Johnny. [36] [37] Joey and Johnny continued to tour as the Ramones after this, but their relationship worsened and they stopped talking to each other, [38] [39] even when Joey was bed-ridden due to lymphoma. In 2001, Marky urged Johnny to visit Joey, saying that "the window is closing", to which Johnny replied "let it close. He's not my friend." [40] He later showed signs of regret in the documentary End of the Century, admitting that Joey's death had a profound impact on him emotionally and that he was depressed for "the whole week" after his death.

According to Linda, Joey had been sending Christmas cards to Johnny every year, only to have them discarded without her knowing. [41]

Johnny Ramone was a Roman Catholic as noted in his autobiography Commando. Though he considered himself a religious Christian he did not attend church, due to physical abuse he suffered at the hands of nuns as a youngster. [42]


Ramone's monument at Hollywood Forever Cemetery Johnny Ramone - THFC.jpg
Ramone's monument at Hollywood Forever Cemetery

On September 15, 2004, Johnny Ramone died in his Los Angeles home at the age of 55 from prostate cancer, less than a month before his 56th birthday. [43] [44] Many of his friends and musical contemporaries came to pay their respects. After his death, his remains were cremated [45] with his wife Linda retaining his ashes. [46]

Posthumous honors

Prior to Johnny's death in 2004, Arturo Vega had suggested a monument to Johnny. "I suggested some kind of monument ... He agreed right away. The monument was my idea; the statue was his idea," relayed Vega. [47] Shortly after Johnny's death, his wife Linda oversaw the creation and erection of an 8 ft tall bronze memorial statue of Johnny at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles. [48] It was designed by Wayne Toth, based on a gift given by Rob Zombie, and was unveiled at a ceremony coordinated by Linda on January 14, 2005. [49] Many of Johnny and Linda's friends spoke at the ceremony, including Zombie, Nicolas Cage, Eddie Vedder, Tommy Ramone, Vincent Gallo, John Frusciante, Seymour Stein, Pete Yorn and others.

In 2006, the remake of the horror film The Wicker Man was dedicated to Johnny Ramone's memory, as he was a close friend of the film's producer and star, Nicolas Cage. The lyrics for Pearl Jam's 2006 single "Life Wasted" were written by Eddie Vedder in honor of Johnny Ramone while driving home from his funeral. [50] Pearl Jam also made their first video in eight years for this song.

Rolling Stone ranked Johnny Ramone 16th on its list of the Greatest Guitarists of All Time. [51]

In 2009, Time magazine included Johnny Ramone on its list of the "10 Best Electric Guitarists of All Time". [52]

An annual Johnny Ramone memorial is held every year in Hollywood Forever Cemetery. [53] The Annual Johnny Ramone Tribute is presented by Linda Ramone and is held as a benefit for the Johnny Ramone cancer research fund which is led by Dr. David Agus at the USC Westside prostate cancer research center. [54] The events have been attended by celebrities such as Vincent Gallo, Lisa Marie Presley, Priscilla Presley, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Chris Cornell, Eddie Vedder, Billie Joe Armstrong, Duff McKagen, [55] Rob Zombie, [55] Kirk Hammett, [56] Steve Jones, and Traci Lords. [57] Additional celebrities who have taken part in the events include John Waters, Rose McGowan, Henry Rollins and Johnny Depp. [58]

Lisa Marie Presley recorded a cover of the Ramones' song "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow" on her 2005 album Now What . She printed in the liner notes of the CD:

Five years ago, Johnny Ramone picked me to sing Here Today, Gone Tomorrow. He wanted me to sing it on a Ramones tribute record where many of his friends and other artists were covering his songs. Johnny was one of my best friends, and I promised him before he passed away that I would include that song on my record. He was very sick but wanted to play the guitar on it as long as he was sitting down. Unfortunately, while we were recording the basic track, he died.

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